It seems crazy that this is my third year, in the same country, working with a lot of the same children, and I have had a completely new experience. Through my first two exchanges I gladly took the roll of the follower. I followed the lead of the veteran exchangers and was the person that just wanted to love on all of the kids. Teacher and leader were never necessarily my strong points.
This year, being one of the veterans, with a group of new people, I had to change my roll. I was able to share my love and knowledge of this program. I even decided to step up into the roll of teacher for a few days. I will not lie, the first day of teaching a bunch of little nuggets from age 4-8, was a new challenge for me. With constant distractions, tired children, and of course the language barrier, I felt as though I was failing. At the end of an emotionally and mentally draining class, it was time to get back to what I love the most, just playing and loving on these kids. As the chaos of free time began, I had the cutest little boy approach me and show me that he had learned every move and wanted me to practice with him. It took every bit of my strength to not just cry for joy. This joy continued into my second day of teaching. The kids actually remembered the dance!
Our time teaching here has had its ups and downs, but the true exchange of joy that has taken place overshadows all of those trying moments. These children have had a chance to learn and express themselves and in turn they have allowed us to feel the raw emotion that we are not granted in our day to day lives.
All lol of the hard work and determination from the kids and us teachers will come to show tonight! We have the annual Talentio en Movimiento tonight at 6:00! All of the kids we have worked with will come together to perform their choreography on one stage. It will be a moment of true chaos, love, and amazingness as all of the kids will all be in one place!
Curtain up! It’s show time!
Tuesday of this week was amazing. Without a doubt everyone in the group broke a barrier and had great fulfillment doing so! Our day started off with a great hike that let us enjoy the beautiful view of Casco Viejo. From there we were off to dancing with the students of the University of Panama. Our first class consisted of dance diplomat Hannah facilitating a floor work combo and some structured improv. It was great to let loose and feel free. The second part of class was very energized as I took the lead and we explored some urban influenced movement. We ended class with a cypher so we can all share the space and have some fun.
The last part of our day was phenomenal. We had our first day with Aldea SOS Orphanage in Panama City and taught the kids some of their dance they will be performing on Friday. The kids picked up the choreography really well and we had lots of time to hang out. What a great day!
Today was incredible. We began our day with a wonderful salsa class led by the Panamanian salsa champion. From there we went to Malambo for our second day of teaching with the girls. All of us dance diplomats were anxious going into the class after our first day with the girls was more rough than we anticipated. (Rough is an understatement, Kimberly informed me that Monday at Malambo was the worst behavior she had ever seen from
the girls) We broke into groups of 4 again, one group with the younger girls and one group with the older girls. We strategized and made a lesson plan that we hoped would make the class run smoother. And it did. As the girls walked in we asked them to remove their shoes, place them against the wall by the door and then join us in a circle. This was immensely helpful in structuring our class. The girls listened throughout the entire class. We used our imaginations and played games that incorporated the new choreography. About a third of the way into the class I could tell that something was different, in the best way possible. I have been on 3 exchanges prior to this and have never seen the Malambo girls behave so well. Each girl was engaged, challenging themselves and feeling that sense of accomplishment we strive for. The girls were quiet when necessary, they were dedicated and did what was asked of them. I was truly amazed and impressed by each and every one of them today. Their smiles and light in their eyes showed that they were proud of themselves as well.
Today reminded me of how powerful dance is. Luz, an 11 year old girl, was found crying today prior to our class. When Kimberly (the Movement Exchange director) asked her what was wrong she did not say a word, but she did get up and come down to our dance class. She was helpful and had fun with the choreography we taught. After the class was over we had time to play. Luz asked to practice another dance with her group. Before the rest of the girls returned, she was dancing by herself. Luz lit up today. She expressed herself through her movements. She used dance as a vehicle to connect her mind and body while working through her troubles. The pure happiness on her face while dancing and playing together was powerful to experience. Dance has changed her life.
Furhermore, during our reflections tonight Kimberly told us that there was a group of 50 baseball players from the United States that were there at the same time as our class. As Malambo is an all girls orphanage from toddlers up, the girls tend to get easily distracted with having men around and desire their attention. Kimberly went to get any of the girls for our dance class from the group of baseball players. While there she overheard one of the girls, Maricruz, speaking with another girl from our dance class. The other little girl wanted to stay and play with the men. Maricruz explained to her that those men were only there for one day, that they did not care about her and the other girls in the way that Movement Exchange does. She explained that they would not be returning and that we have the annual show on Friday therefor it is important to practice. Maricruz told her friend that the Movement Exchange dance teachers were waiting for them. When Kimberly told us this I got chills from head to toe. That conversation confirmed our purpose at the orphanage through Movement Exchange is important. It showed how important our sustainability is. Maricruz can feel how much us dance diplomats care about her and the rest of the girls. In addition, her statements showed that she cares about us as well as dance. Her statements showed she is developing in crucial ways through dance. Tears filled my eyes thinking about this young girl explaining to her friend why it was important to go to dance class. No one has told her to say this, no one has explained to her that we at Movement Exchange are here for that exact reason. She showed that we are making a positive impact through dance. That our cause is worthwhile.
Today the girls showed incredible growth and improvement. They showed the most dedication and desire to learn and dance I have seen in all of my years with Movement Exchange. I cannot put into words how incredibly proud we are of what these girls accomplished today. Movement Exchange and the Malambo girls took a huge step forward today. We are looking forward to the annual show on Friday more than ever after today’s class.
Oh man, we LOVE Panama! We got in yesterday, tired, but ready to roll. It was wonderful to acquaint ourselves with our new surroundings, new friends from all over the States, and the plan for our jam-packed week of Dance Diplomacy. We even went to a unique contemporary dance performance by a Spanish company, La Intrusa, in the Anita Villalaz Theater—where Movement Exchange dance students will perform their annual show, Talento en Movimiento. So cool! By the time we dove into our cozy Magnolia Inn beds we were full of anticipation for an excellent “domingo.”
This morning we hit the beach with a major goal to achieve: choreograph! We joined forces, kicked up some sand and salt water, and pulled together groovy moves worthy of Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling.” All of the students we work with this week will learn this dance to perform as the show opener on Friday.
From the beach we ventured to Aldea SOS Orphanage in Colon, where every dance diplomat put his or her strengths to work. It was an energetic afternoon of teaching, learning, games, showing off, and celebrating. Our veteran diplomats were happy to reconnect with familiar children, while the newbie diplomats hit the ground running, dancing, and smiling alongside the kids. All were grateful for the openness of the children and the resourcefulness of our whole Move-Ex team. We can’t wait for more amazing times with each other and the incredible young people of Panama who we are so fortunate to connect with on this trip!
June 23-26 2016.
Ft. Movement Exchange dancers from across the country.
As the delegate for UC San Diego, a Movement Exchange chapter that’s just celebrating is first official year in action, I had no idea what to expect at our first summer retreat with the national organization. Our team hadn’t yet gone to Panama and had never met any other chapters. In fact, we hadn’t even gotten to meet our own chapter mentor in person yet! But after everything at retreat, I can confidently say that we (1) are feeling ready for Panama, (2) will be staying in touch with the other chapters, and (3) love our chapter mentor – yay Adele!
To boil it all down, here are the Top 3 Things I learned, through 3 amazing days of in-person stories, networking, and movement workshops.
What does it mean to be part of a MOVEMENT?
To pour your heart and soul into a cause. To be proud of what you do. To celebrate each other’s successes and collaborate against common challenges. And to know that you are not alone.
Why are we all here, and why do we do what we do?
The answers to that question were at once completely different but all the same. Through learning the journeys that brought each of us to dance service, and hearing about the heartwarming stories and experiences that motivate each person to keep doing what we do, I could feel an instant connection to these people that I’d never even met. Dance and the experience it gives you is something difficult to put into words. But I could sense the passion and emotions behind every inspiring story, and I truly cannot wait to create more of these moments with my own team as we head off to Panama for the first time this upcoming September.
How do we plan to stay connected?
None of us is as powerful as all of us. Whether it’s collaboration projects, joint awareness campaigns, troubleshooting, or even having pen pals, there were no shortage of ideas this weekend. One of the most helpful takeaways for me at the retreat though, was learning about the art of social media and branding (thank you Hannah!). Curious about all the other things we learned and experienced throughout retreat? Check it out yourself, with the tags #MovetoChange or #MovexRetreat.
**Huge thank you to Anna, Kimberly, and Hannah for putting together an absolutely inspirational weekend for us all. And sending much love to all the passionate dancers I met on retreat.